Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

02/21/2017 05:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS

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05:35:14 PM Start
05:35:47 PM HB44|| HCR1
06:03:23 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Please Note Time Change --
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          HB 44-LEGISLATIVE ETHICS: VOTING & CONFLICTS                                                                      
         HCR 1-AMEND UNIFORM RULES: ABSTAIN FROM VOTING                                                                     
5:35:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that  the only order  of business                                                               
would be  CS FOR  SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR  HOUSE BILL  NO. 44(JUD)                                                               
"An  Act  requiring  a  legislator  to  abstain  from  taking  or                                                               
withholding official  action or exerting official  influence that                                                               
could  benefit or  harm  an immediate  family  member or  certain                                                               
employers; requiring a  legislator to request to  be excused from                                                               
voting in an  instance where the legislator may  have a financial                                                               
conflict of interest;  and providing for an  effective date." and                                                               
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 1,  Proposing an amendment to the                                                               
Uniform Rules of the Alaska  State Legislature relating to voting                                                               
and abstention from voting.                                                                                                     
5:36:39 PM                                                                                                                    
RYAN JOHNSTON,  Staff, Representative  Jason Grenn,  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, continued the  PowerPoint presentation, titled "HB44                                                               
and HCR1"  from where he  left off at  the 3:00 p.m.  House State                                                               
Affairs Standing  Committee meeting of  2/21/17.  He  referred to                                                               
the citizen legislatures  of New Mexico and Wyoming  on slide 18,                                                               
titled  "Citizens  Legislatures,"  and reviewed  their  statutory                                                               
language  as it  relates to  conflicts of  interest.   He relayed                                                               
that the  New Mexico  legislature uses  "majority consent  of the                                                               
body" in  requiring an  abstention from  voting and  the "general                                                               
public"  language  for  determining  a  conflict.    The  Wyoming                                                               
legislature uses  "majority consent  of the Rules  [& Procedures]                                                               
Committee"  in  requiring  an  abstention  from  voting  and  the                                                               
"substantial class" language in determining a conflict.                                                                         
MR. JOHNSTON  moved on to slide  19 showing two more  examples of                                                               
states  with  citizen  legislatures  - South  Dakota  and  Idaho.                                                               
South Dakota  uses the  "majority consent  of the  body" language                                                               
but language other than "substantial  class" or "general public."                                                               
He said that  Idaho is an example of a  state with separate rules                                                               
for the  Senate and  House:  the  Senate uses  two-thirds consent                                                               
[for abstention  from voting], and  abstentions in the  House are                                                               
allowed after the declaration of  conflict of interest is made on                                                               
the floor.                                                                                                                      
5:38:52 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. JOHNSTON  referred to slide  20, titled  "Current Procedure,"                                                             
which shows  a flowchart of  the current procedures  under Alaska                                                               
statute.    He  relayed  that   under  current  procedure,  if  a                                                               
legislator believes  he/she has a  conflict of interest  under AS                                                               
24.60.030,  the  legislator stands  on  the  floor, declares  the                                                               
conflict of  interest, and requests  to abstain from voting.   He                                                               
explained that  a unanimous  consent [of the  body] is  needed to                                                               
allow the  legislator to abstain  from voting.   He said  that if                                                               
there is no objection, then  the legislator abstains from voting;                                                               
however, this  has never  happened in the  history of  the Alaska                                                               
legislature, since the statute was enacted.   He added that if an                                                               
objection is raised, the legislator  is required to vote, and the                                                               
objection is not recorded in the  journal.  He maintained that in                                                               
that case,  there is  no record  made of  the actual  conflict of                                                               
interest,  only that  "X representative"  declared a  conflict of                                                               
interest,  there was  an objection,  and he/she  was required  to                                                               
MR. JOHNSTON referred to slide  21, titled "Procedure Implemented                                                               
by  HB 44  & HCR  1,"  to review  a flowchart  of the  procedures                                                               
proposed under CSSSHB 44(JUD) and HCR  1.  He related that CSSSHB
44(JUD)  would  amend AS  24.60.030  to  add employer,  immediate                                                               
family member, and  immediate family member's employer.   He went                                                               
on  to  say that  the  legislator  would  declare a  conflict  of                                                               
interest on the floor, explain  the conflict of interest, and ask                                                               
to  abstain from  voting.    He relayed  that  at  that point,  a                                                               
majority  consent is  required to  allow for  an abstention  from                                                               
voting.    He  said  if  there  is  majority  consent,  then  the                                                               
legislator  can abstain  from  voting  and does  not  vote.   The                                                               
allowance  of the  abstention is  recorded  in the  journal.   If                                                               
there is  not a majority  consent, the legislator must  vote, and                                                               
the vote is recorded in the daily journal.                                                                                      
5:41:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX asked  whether if  the majority  consents,                                                               
the legislator must vote.                                                                                                       
MR. JOHNSTON  replied that if a  majority vote was cast  to allow                                                               
for the abstention, the legislator would not vote.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  asked if  other legislatures  use majority                                                               
vote to disallow  a vote, rather than a majority  vote to allow a                                                               
vote.    She   asked  what  the  procedures   were  in  municipal                                                               
assemblies in Alaska.                                                                                                           
MR. JOHNSTON responded that other  state legislative bodies use a                                                               
method like  what is proposed  - a  legislator makes a  motion to                                                               
abstain from voting on proposed  legislation, and the vote of the                                                               
body is on that motion.   He related that the statute relating to                                                               
municipalities in Alaska describes  a process whereby an assembly                                                               
member  asks the  presiding officer  if he/she  can abstain,  and                                                               
depending on the decision of  the presiding officer, the assembly                                                               
can vote to override the presiding officer's decision.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX offered  "if  the  presiding officer  says                                                               
'yes, you can abstain,' then it  would take a majority to require                                                               
that person to vote, and vice versa."                                                                                           
MR. JOHNSTON replied that in his understanding that is correct.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP confirmed that  the procedure in an assembly                                                               
meeting  is   exactly  as  Representative  LeDoux   stated.    He                                                               
described  the procedure  in an  assembly meeting:   an  assembly                                                               
member  declares a  conflict of  interest; the  presiding officer                                                               
decides on the validity of the  conflict of interest; and at that                                                               
point, any  member of  the assembly can  object to  the presiding                                                               
officer's opinion and ask for a  vote of the assembly to overrule                                                               
the determination.  He added  that if the presiding officer rules                                                               
that the assembly  member has a conflict and a  member objects to                                                               
his/her  ruling, it  would  be  decided by  a  vote  of the  full                                                               
assembly, excluding the  member with the conflict.   He said that                                                               
if the majority  of the assembly votes to  override the presiding                                                               
officer's ruling,  then the member  who declared the  conflict of                                                               
interest  would be  required to  vote.   If the  majority of  the                                                               
assembly  votes to  uphold the  presiding officer's  ruling, then                                                               
the assembly member would abstain from voting.                                                                                  
5:44:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX   referred  to   Representative  Johnson's                                                               
mention  of people  taking sides  on an  issue and  suggested the                                                               
possibility   of   the  system   being   "gamed."     She   asked                                                               
Representative Knopp's  opinion on how  the system worked  in the                                                               
assembly on which he served.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP responded  that in the assembly  on which he                                                               
served, there  was no  partisanship whatsoever,  and it  was rare                                                               
for members to  disagree with the presiding  officer's opinion on                                                               
a conflict of interest.   He added that he is  unsure if it would                                                               
be an  issue with the  legislature but expressed his  belief that                                                               
legislators would vote on the validity of each issue.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE   LEDOUX  asked   if  in   Representative  Knopp's                                                               
experience, there  was ever  an occasion  in which  the presiding                                                               
officer was overruled.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP replied yes, but it was rare.                                                                              
5:46:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  referred to  slide 13,  titled "Substantial                                                               
Class in  Other State's  Statute," and  asked for  information on                                                               
the 21  states not  included in  the breakdown  of states  in the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JASON  GRENN, Alaska  State Legislature,  as prime                                                               
sponsor  of CSSSHB  44(JUD)  and  HCR 1,  answered  that for  the                                                               
states   listed  on   slide  13,   the  statutory   language  for                                                               
"substantial class"  and "the effect  on the general  public" was                                                               
foundational.   He  maintained that  the remaining  states either                                                               
used language  taken from other  states or language that  was not                                                               
as clearly defined.  He offered  that there is a breakdown of all                                                               
50 states regarding statutory language  included in the committee                                                               
CHAIR  KREISS-TOMKINS  cited  Mr.  Johnston's  earlier  testimony                                                               
stating  none  of  his  contacts with  other  states  revealed  a                                                               
"gamesmanship" approach to majority  consent votes.  He expressed                                                               
his  concern regarding  that possibility  and asked  which states                                                               
Mr. Johnston was in contact with about this concern.                                                                            
MR. JOHNSTON  responded that  his contact  in Wyoming  claimed to                                                               
have never  seen someone  use the  conflict of  interest majority                                                               
vote system  in a way  to prevent a  vote.  Mr.  Johnston pointed                                                               
out that New  Mexico is a prime example of  a citizen legislature                                                               
- the legislators  receive no salary and only $163  a day for the                                                               
session.  He  maintained that the New  Mexico legislators clearly                                                               
have  outside work  and related  conflicts.   He relayed  that he                                                               
spoke with  the chief clerk and  the chair of the  Rules [& Order                                                               
of Business] Committee,  who both maintained that  they had never                                                               
seen  a situation  where someone  used the  conflict of  interest                                                               
procedures  as a  mechanism  against  another legislator;  people                                                               
take the  process seriously and make  decisions objectively based                                                               
on the facts.                                                                                                                   
5:49:29 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON suggested that  a two-thirds majority or a                                                               
three-quarters  majority   would  constitute  a   more  stringent                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GRENN responded that  a simple majority was chosen                                                               
to be  consistent with  what is required  of municipalities.   He                                                               
offered that he is open to amending the proposed legislation.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL  pointed  out  that the  assembly  on  which                                                               
Representative  Knopp served  was  non-partisan  and was  smaller                                                               
than  the  legislative   bodies.    He  expressed   that  in  the                                                               
legislature, there  are many partisan  and party line  votes, and                                                               
Representative  Johnson's suggestion  has  merit.   He asked  for                                                               
confirmation  that the  introduction of  the legislation  was not                                                               
due to  a specific instance  but the desire for  transparency and                                                               
public trust.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GRENN replied Representative  Wool is correct.  He                                                               
said the  desire to  introduce the legislation  was not  based on                                                               
any previous actions.                                                                                                           
5:52:50 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL expressed his  belief that there are examples                                                               
of  the public  losing  confidence  and trust.    He offered  the                                                               
example of an  individual working for the oil  industry voting on                                                               
a  bill  affecting the  oil  industry.    He suggested  that  the                                                               
proposed legislation would not address that situation.                                                                          
MR. JOHNSTON replied that under  the current statute, there is no                                                               
provision  for  an  employer/employee relationship;  it  is  only                                                               
about negotiating  employment.   He maintained that  the proposed                                                               
legislation does  include employer, but the  situation would have                                                               
to meet  the "substantial class"  standard.  He gave  the example                                                               
of  a  legislator  working for  the  Atlantic  Richfield  Company                                                               
(ARCO),  who is  considering  oil  legislation that  specifically                                                               
affects  ARCO, either  benefiting  or harming  the company,  more                                                               
than the  rest of  the oil  industry.  He  asserted that  in that                                                               
example, there  would be a  conflict of interest that  would need                                                               
to be  declared.  He  asserted that determination of  conflict of                                                               
interest situations is very fact-driven.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL  asked if under CSSSHB  44(JUD), a legislator                                                               
working for  an oil  company would have  no conflict  of interest                                                               
voting on proposed oil tax  legislation, if the legislation would                                                               
affect the whole class of oil companies.                                                                                        
MR.  JOHNSTON  answered  that  there   are  situations  where  an                                                               
executive of  any business  would have to  declare a  conflict of                                                               
interest, and  because it  would go  to a vote  of the  body, the                                                               
legislator could  make the case  for substantial conflict  and be                                                               
excused  or  make  the  case  for  objectivity  in  voting.    He                                                               
maintained that  HCR 1 is  focused on putting the  proceedings on                                                               
the record.   He stated  that the proposed legislation  would add                                                               
"employer" to AS 24.60.030(e).                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL suggested  that the  intent of  the proposed                                                               
legislation is not for the legislator  to justify his vote but to                                                               
declare a  conflict of interest  to abstain from voting,  and the                                                               
vote of the body  would be on the abstention.   He asked if after                                                               
a legislator declares a conflict  of interest on the floor, there                                                               
is  additional   disclosure  and  discussion  on   the  potential                                                               
MR.  JOHNSTON responded  that the  motion for  abstention is  not                                                               
debatable.   After  the legislator  speaks  to his/her  conflict,                                                               
there would be an immediate vote on the motion.                                                                                 
5:58:25 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL asked  if changing  the current  practice to                                                               
make an  objection to  a motion of  abstention more  formal would                                                               
constitute the necessary improvement.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  GRENN  expressed  his belief  that  the  proposed                                                               
legislation focuses on beneficial changes to statutes.                                                                          
5:59:56 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KNOPP commented  that if  an individual  stood up                                                               
and  objected,  he/she  would  want  to give  a  reason  for  the                                                               
objection but avoid a debate on  the floor with 40 members of the                                                               
legislature.  He further commented  that the proposed legislation                                                               
has public  support because of  perceived conflicts  of interest.                                                               
He  expressed  his belief  that  the  conflicts of  interest  are                                                               
[just] perceived, because historically  there have been no issues                                                               
of  conflicts  of  interest,  and   legislators  are  good  about                                                               
declaring them.   He mentioned that he also  dislikes the current                                                               
process  but would  prefer that  the presiding  officer make  the                                                               
decision and  the legislative  body decide  whether to  object to                                                               
that  decision.    He  added  that he  doesn't  support  all  the                                                               
proposed statutory changes regarding  what constitutes a conflict                                                               
of  interest.    He  expressed  his  concern  that  the  proposed                                                               
procedure would  be cumbersome  and inefficient  on the  floor of                                                               
the legislative bodies.                                                                                                         
6:02:00 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  commented that  she appreciates  that the                                                               
proposed  legislation addresses  an  issue for  which the  public                                                               
wants reassurance.                                                                                                              
6:02:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX stated  that she  supports CSSSHB  44(JUD)                                                               
and HCR 1.                                                                                                                      
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that CSSSHB 44(JUD) and HCR 1                                                                    
will be held over.                                                                                                              

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HCR001 ver J 1.20.17.PDF HSTA 2/21/2017 5:30:00 PM
HCR001 Sectional Anaylsis 1.23.17.pdf HSTA 2/21/2017 5:30:00 PM
HCR1 Fiscal Note 2.6.17.pdf HSTA 2/21/2017 5:30:00 PM
HCR001 Sponsor Statement 1.23.2017.pdf HSTA 2/21/2017 5:30:00 PM
HCR001 Hearing Request 1.23.17.pdf HSTA 2/21/2017 5:30:00 PM
HB044 and HCR001 Power Point Presentation 2.21.17.pdf HSTA 2/21/2017 5:30:00 PM
HB 44
HB091 Supporting Document APOC Budget 2.21.17.PDF HSTA 2/21/2017 5:30:00 PM
HB 91